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or at least some temporal fortune sufficient to keep him out of contempt ? though, in my opinion, it were infinitely better, if all the clergy (except the bishops) were permitted to appear like other men of the graver sort, unless at those seasons when they are doing the business of their function.
There is one abuse in this town, which wonderfully contributes to the promotion of vice; that such men are often put into the commission of 'the peace, whose interest it is, that virtue should be utterly banished froni among us; who maintain, or at least enrich themselves by encouraging the groffest immoralities; to whom all the bawds of the ward pay contribution for shelter and protection from the laws. Thus these worthy magistrates, instead of lessening enormities, are the occasion of just twice as much debauchery as there would be without them. For those infamous women are forced upon doubling their work and industry, to answer double charges, of paying the justice, and supporting themselves ; like thieves who escape the gallows, and are let out to steal, in order to discharge the gaoler's fees.
It is not to be questioned, but the Queen and ministry might easily redress this abominable grievance, by enlarging the number of justices of the peace, by endeavouring to chuse men of virtuous principles, by admitting none who have not considerable fortunes ; perhaps, by receiving
into the number, some of the most eminent clergy: then, by forcing all of them, upon severe penalties, to act when there is occafion, and not permitting any who are offered, to refuse the commillion. But, in these two laft cases, which are very material, I doubt there will be need of the legislature.
The reformation of the stage is entirely in the power of the Queen ; and, in the consequences it hath upon the minds of young people, doth very well deserve the stricteft care. Besides the inde. cent and profane passages ; besides the perpetual turning into ridicule the very function of the priesthood, with other irregularities, in most modern comedies, which have been often objected to them ; it is worth observing the distributive justice of the authors, which is constantly applied to the punishment of virtue, and the reward of vice; directly opposite to the rules of their best critics, as well as to the practice of dramatic poets in all other ages and countries. For example, a country 'squire, who is represented with no other vice but that of being a clown, and having the provincial accent upon his tongue, which is neither a fault, nor in his power to remedy, must be condemned to marry a cast wench, or a cracked chambermaid. On the other side, a rake-hell of the town, whose character is set off with no other accomplishment but excessive prodigality, profaneness, intemperance, and lust, is rewarded wich a lady of great fortune to repair his own,
which his vices had almost ruined. And as, in a tragedy, the hero is represented to have obtained many victories, in order to raise his character in the minds of the spectators; fo the hero of a comedy is represented to have been victorious in all his intrigues, for the same reason. I do not remember, that our English poets ever fuffered a criminal amour to succeed upon the stage, till the reign of King Charles II. Ever since that time, the alderman is made a cuckold, the deluded virgin is debauched, and adultery and fornication are supposed to be committed behind the scenes, as part of the action. These, and many more cora ruptions of the theatre, peculiar to our age and nation, need continue no longer, than while the court is content to connive at, or neglect them. Surely, a pension would not be ill employed on some men of wit, learning, and virtue, who might have power to strike out every offensive or unbecoming paffage from plays already written, as 'well as those that may be offered to the stage for the future. By which, and other wise regulations, the theatre might become a very innocent and useful diversion, instead of being a scandal and reproach to our religion and country.
The proposals I have hitherto made for the advancement of religion and morality, are such as come within the reach of the administration ; such as a pious active prince, with a steady refolution, might foon bring to effect. Neither am I aware of any objections to be raised against
what I have advanced; unless it should be thought, that the making religion a necessary. step to interest and favour, might increase hypocrisy among us : and I readily believe it would. But if one in twenty should be brought over to true piety, by this or the like methods, and the other nineteen be only hypocrites, the advantage would still be great. Besides, hypocrisy is much more eligible, than open infidelity and vice : it wears the livery of religion ; it acknowledges her authority, and is cautious of giving scandal. Nay, a long continued disguise is too great a constraint upon human nature, especially an English disposition. Men would leave off their vices out of mere weariness, rather than undergo the toil and hazard, and perhaps the expence, of practising them perpetually in private. And I believe it is often with religion, as it is with love; which, by much diffembling, at last grows real.
All other projects to this great end, have proved hitherto ineffectual. Laws against immorality bave not been executed ; and proclamations occasionally issued out to inforce them, are wholly unregarded, as things of form. Religious focieties, though begun with excellent intention, and by persons of true piety, are said, I know not whether truly or no, to have dwindled into factious clubs, and grown a trade to enrich little knavish informers of the meanest rank, such as common constables, and broken shopkeepers.
And that some effectual attempt should be made toward such a reformation, is perhaps more ne-
ceffary than people commonly apprehend; because the ruin of a state is generally preceded by an universal degeneracy of manners, and contempt of religion ; which is entirely our case at present.
Diis te minorem, quod geris, imperas.
Neither is this a matter to be deferred, till a more convenient time of peace and leisure. A reformation in mens faith and morals, is the best natural, as well as religious means, to bring the war to a good conclusion : because, if men in trust performed their duty for conscience fake, affairs would not suffer through fraud, falsehood, and neglect, as they now perpetually do. And if they believed a God, and his Providence, and acted accordingly, they might reasonably hope for his divine assistance in fo just a cause as ours.
Nor could the majesty of the English crown appear, upon any occasion, in greater luftre, either to foreigners or subjects, than by an adminikration, which, producing such great effects, would discover so much power. And power being the natural appetite of princes, a limited monarch cannot so well gratify it in any thing, as a strict execution of the laws.
Besides, all parties would be obliged to close with fo good a work as this, for their own reputation. Neither is any expedient more likely to unite them. For the most violent partymen I